Maui divers wage war on predatory fish - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Maui divers wage war on predatory fish

Brian Yoshikawa Brian Yoshikawa
Johon Randall Johon Randall
Darrell Tanaka Darrell Tanaka
Kuhea Paracuelles Kuhea Paracuelles

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) -- Hawaii's coral reefs teem with all sorts of fish. But divers on Maui swear the supply is dwindling.

"A three-pound kumu was a nice fish when I started. A three-pound kumu is a trophy now," spear fisherman Brian Yoshikawa said.

The roi - or peacock grouper -- feeds on smaller fish. Fishermen and some scientists said roi is devouring native species.

"The native fish fauna here in Hawaii has never had such an efficient predator living in its midst," Dr. John Randall said.

Randall holds a doctorate in ocean study and has written papers on roi.

The fish was introduced to Hawaiian waters in the 1950s to boost declining fish stocks. Its population exploded as did its appetite.

Researchers estimate on a tiny section of coral off the Kona coast, roi consume eight million reef fish a year.

On Maui, divers are waging war on roi.

"We're trying to grow fish by removing the roi," fisherman Darrell Tanaka said.

Since 2008, Maui's held roi Roundups. Participants pay a fee to rid the reef of roi.

"A lot of people who aren't even divers know about the roi Roundup and why we do it," said Kuhea Paracuelles, Maui County Environmental Coordinator.

In some parts of the Pacific roi is good eating. But in Hawaii the fish is linked to ciguatera poisoning.

"If we cannot get people to eat them, we can get people to kill them and get them off the reef," Yoshikawa said.

Some scientists said roi help maintain healthy stocks by feeding on diseased and sick fish.

But more and more it's being seen as a predator that needs to be stopped.

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